Thursday, October 18, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Sprinklers to be required
in commercial high-rises

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Up to 35 older commercial buildings 75 feet or higher will be required to install sprinkler systems under a bill passed by the City Council.

Building owners would need to complete the retrofitting within five years, although extensions of up to two years may be approved by the fire chief.

The bill was introduced by Council members Jon Yoshimura and Andy Mirikitani in the days following the April 2000 high-rise fire at the Interstate Building on King Street in Pawaa.

The fire destroyed the top floor of the building and injured 11 firefighters.

The building did not have sprinklers but would have needed to under the bill.

The measure "provides a greater level of safety for residents of Honolulu, particularly those who work and reside in commercial high-rise buildings," said fire Battalion Chief Kenneth Silva.

The ordinance will require sprinklers to be "in every space that has human occupancy," from hallways to mechanical rooms to storage rooms, Silva said.

Another bill, which would apply to residential high-rises, has not made it to a final vote.

Silva said the Fire Department will continue to lobby for passage of that measure.

High-rises built before 1975, like the Interstate Building, were not required to install sprinklers.

A 1983 retrofit bill applied only to high-rise hotels.

Miles Kamimura, legislative chairman for the Building Owners and Managers Association, said the ordinance "doesn't seem to make a significant change in the life safety issue."

Kamimura said there is a greater safety concern in residential high-rises, where people sleep.

Silva noted, however, that several of the commercial buildings affected by the ordinance also include residential units.

City & County of Honolulu

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